HALFBROTHER on Masculinity, Gender, & an Upcoming Debut EP
Trump’s America may be on the brink of full chaos, but the Brits can empathize: with Brexit underway and a very vocal anti-immigrant sentiment clearly mirroring the one stateside, it’s a situation that’s seemingly without a silver lining. Enter HALFBROTHER, the alternative R&B duo bent on bridging the gap, bringing conversations surrounding gender and masculinity to the forefront, and inspiring others to do the same—one track at a time.
Murkage Dave and Patrick Scally couldn’t have more opposite backgrounds (Dave is a born-and-raised East Londoner with immigrant parents, while Scally is from the countryside that pushed England out of the EU), and that seemingly contradictory pairing is exactly what makes this duo so damn good. Apparently, opposites attract, and we’re already sold. And though they insist on keeping things casual, in an effort to keep the magic alive, here’s betting it’s almost impossible to get rid off, whether they like it or not.
You’ve released three singles so far—”Go Tell The Mandem”, “Sweet Talk”, and “Love Letter”. What has the reception been like?
Murkage Dave: Yeah, we’ve been really happy with it. The message has been received, I guess.
Patrick Scally: Yeah, the people that have really connected with it are all the people that we love, and obviously when you get beyond that of people who don’t know who you are, just as fans of the music, it’s always really pure and honest. We didn’t know how people were gonna take it so we’re just really pleased and proud of what we did. I couldn’t be happier, really, to be honest.
So when you guys first got together and started putting together the HALFBROTHER sound, how did you develop that?
M: Well we just met, and I guess we were both…Patrick was getting back into music and I had been doing some other projects before and I was trying to find myself, I guess. So it was just really good timing, because we were both in a place where we were both destroying bits and rebuilding. So we weren’t afraid of fucking up in front of each other.
P: Dave was just someone who…we had literally known each other a couple of months before we ever started working as HALFBROTHER, even though it didn’t have a name, but it felt really instantly like it clicked. It was there. There’s a lot of love in the room and a lot of clarity between each other and just kind of following the path. I’ve not worked with a million people—I guess Dave has probably worked with more people than I have—but you kind of sometimes think, ok, maybe you’re not sure how something’s gonna work or whatever, but we were just kind of like brothers from the jump, really.
M: Yeah, and so we did a few things, like Patrick helped me with a mixtape I was doing for Noisey, and then we did an EP, and there’s a track called “Car Bomb” on there that was quite well received that Patrick produced. And I guess we just kind of moved from there. It was a very naturally occuring thing. It just all kind of came together, didn’t it? Just through conversations, really. I think one of the things with us is that we’re from totally different parts of England—I’m from East London and Patrick is from The Midlands, like the countryside. So we’re from very different areas, different ethnicities, and also politically, with everything that’s going on in the country, with the whole Brexit thing, I’m from the area that wanted to stay in the EU, and Patrick is from the area that wanted to leave. But the thing is, through the conversations that we’ve had, we realized how much we actually had in common with each other, just through being young men in England, as England’s changing, as it’s becoming this new different thing.
I know that one of your focuses is challenging perceptions of gender and masculinity—why did you guys want to focus on that?
P: Well I think it’s probably one of the most prevalent things, in terms of the modern male and the future of men in this world. And me personally, in a not-so distant past, had quite extreme family instances where a lack of understanding of what it is to be a man or an over-understanding of an old archetype of what it is to be a man basically destroyed someone. And I think that definition is quite narrow and there’s just not a lot of depth to it. So I think for us, in the music, the conversations we have when we make music and the writing side of it—it’s about what’s happening now—how we interact with the opposite sex, not just in a physical relationship manner but friendship and seeing how things are. For the music and what we stand for, we try to stand for a little more, I think.
M: Yeah, I also feel like one of the things that did unite us was just having those conversations, where, you know, as a young man, it was kind of crazy how even though we’re from such different areas, we still had that understanding of masculinity. We could both identify with that. And then on the other side, with the love songs, we also wanted to show that realism of it. I feel like a lot of R&B records fall into two categories—either some guy saying, “I’m gonna fuck you,” or some guy saying, “I’m not like all those guys trying to fuck you.” [Laughs]. And we’re trying to react to this changing world, where the world is becoming more feminist, and how we approach all these different things is changing, and that’s what we’re trying to talk about. It’s something that’s challenging us as well, you know? So that’s where we’re at.
So as artists during Brexit—and we definitely have our own version of the chaos—what is that like? What’s your role?
P: Wow. I mean I think, like you said with your thing, the chaos is kind of omnipotent. Everyone’s going through it. But I don’t know, it’s strange. We’re in London, and I remember the day the news came down the pipe that that decision was made. It was a really sunny day actually and I remember leaving the studio and just going down the road and it was just like, people just looking at each other, like, “Ok. This happened. We didn’t choose this.” But like Dave was saying earlier, I’m from a place that voted for Brexit, and a close city to me is Boston, and that was the highest voting county for Brexit, like 89% voted Yes. They’re the people that I grew up around and a lot of those people I went to school with and shared fond memories with. So I think for me personally, I think there’s a real Britishness that’s becoming, and people are really proud to be it, but it’s never been less clear up and down the country of what that means. It’s not a united front right now.
M: Yeah, the united front thing is exactly what I was thinking of. The conversations that me and Patrick are having, on a weekly basis, I kind of feel like if those conversations were had between where I’m from and where he’s from, we wouldn’t even be in this situation. I feel like the two sides look at each and think we’re not going through the same thing, but everyone is going through the same thing, just in different ways. It’s crazy in England how some of the people that are the most anti-immigrant don’t live in areas where there are any immigrants.
P: Yes! Exactly.
It’s totally like that in the States, too.
M: It’s crazy. It’s this kind of fear that’s manufactured by those that wield power, really. But at the same time, I feel like the lefty, privileged side of it was not ready to see the reality of how people felt. For me, I’m a second-generation immigrant, my parents are from the West Indies, and it didn’t feel good to know how many people resented my presence and other people’s presence that made up the country. But for us, it’s more based on the conversations that we’re having, and that’s our contribution really—having that conversation between us and putting that into our art.
P: Yeah. And I think the thing is, for me, I fucking hate political songs, but you’ll hear like a stream of consciousness thing, and it’s really cutting. We’ve got a ton of music ready, and none of it is like, “Let’s all reverse Brexit!” You know? For me, it’s a video about a guy who’s struggling with his sexuality, who’s black, who might get turned away from places just because of the way he’s dressed isn’t appropriate in their minds. I don’t want it to be so obvious.
M: Yeah, I think for us, or really for anyone, music shouldn’t tell you what to think or what to do. It should just make you think. It should be something in the record, or something in the artwork that just turns your brain to a slightly different way of thinking. And I think that’s going to be different for everyone.
So when is the album coming out?
M: Good question! [Laughs] Soon. And we’ve actually got two in the works. It’s coming. We’re working on a short film.
A short film?
M: Yeah, it’s called God Bless England.
P: Yeah, we wanna do that, and then really let the record speak for itself after that. “Love Letter”, for me personally, is my baby, it’s my favorite song on the record, but I think we want to set a different tone before we fully say, “This is the first record.” So it’s any moment now, but we want to do a number on the short film.
M: And the album is called Men Can’t Protect You Anymore.
As far as longterm, what’s the vision for HALFBROTHER?
M: We’re just really good friends [Laughs]. Making the music just kind of happened. We’re always connected. We’re just going.
P: I think I can definitely speak for both of us in the sense that I don’t think it’s helpful to think about that or our place in this. I think it’s our job to really just make each other proud of the work we put in and do the best job we can. I think if we were trying to predict this thing or that thing, we would move differently, so I have so much faith in all of the things we do. I know how good the songs are, and I know how good we are when we get together and make things happen. And I think a lot of people will. Beyond that, we just love each other. [Laughs]
M: Yeah, we never thought about that before. I feel like once a project gets going, they want to get more professional or whatever. But we never thought about what we wanna be. We were just making music. And we want to keep that element—that’s what’s gonna keep the magic. Living in the present.
Images courtesy of Nadja Staubli
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